Supporting and improving mental health in the LGBT+ community

22 July 2019 . United Kingdom

Andrew McGrath, Public Sector Commissioning Director for Bupa UK Care Services, recently visited Gaydio radio station, which received funding from the Bupa UK Foundation Mid-Life Mental Health Programme, to find out more about how the funding has helped their listeners. The radio station with 500,000 listeners wanted to support the LGBT+ community experiencing poor mental health. Here, Andrew tells us about his visit.
Gaydio radio station

"Gaydio radio station has used the Bupa UK Foundation’s funding to run workshops for the LGBT+ community to encourage them to share their own experiences of mental health through aired documentaries, interviews and bios on the Gaydio radio website. 

The workshops gave attendees the opportunity to learn interview and presentation techniques and how to edit and produce radio content. Many have stuck around as volunteers and are thriving. Everyone said that their confidence levels were now higher because of attending the course. 

The first cohort started in Autumn 2018, finishing in December 2018. They wrapped up with a 'how to cope with the challenges of Christmas' documentary. It focused on the pressure to accept invitations for drinks and social events and the fact that at Christmas not everyone is feeling festive and that there is often a lot of regression within the LGBT+ community as people return home and go back in the closet. The documentary was written, produced and edited by attendees of the course, some of whom shared their own personal experiences of the challenges of the season. The team at Gaydio then partnered with Sanctuary, a local charity, that specialises in supporting people with depression, anxiety and loneliness. In addition to the documentary attendees made an advert promoting the support that Sanctuary can provide to listeners.

Attendees also shared, through self-produced documentaries, their own experiences of mental health. One participant produced a documentary in which he discussed his bipolar diagnosis and the techniques he uses to manage his condition. I listened to the seven-minute documentary and aside from it being incredible moving, it was well produced. The team at Gaydio then built their website content to signpost listeners to charities that could offer help to those with similar experiences.

I got to speak to Debbie, a transwoman, who transitioned in her late 30's. In her own documentary Debbie raised the worrying statistic that the rate of eating disorders within the LGBT+ community was disproportionately greater. She explained that a coping mechanism to manage the physical and emotional struggles of her transition, was to make herself sick after meals. Debbie then continued her documentary by interviewing a gay man, who shared his own experience with food. Andy explained that as a child he was once called a 'fat queer' and despite all of his friends rushing round to comfort him thinking that the label 'queer' would offend him, it was the label fat that really cut deep. Andy then became a secret eater and over a number of years put on 16 stone. Andy explained that the pressure on gay men to conform to the Muscle Mary stereotype or the 'twink' look, put a huge amount of pressure on him. Andy turned to the charity Beat to overcome his unhealthy relationship with food and has since written a book about his experience.

Debbie explained to me that she decided to attend the course so that the LBGT+ community could benefit from her experience and for those who could relate to her story, to reach out for support and help. While she achieved this, through attending the course and discussing her experience and making the documentary, she also realised she needed to do some more work for herself.   

Visiting the team at Gaydio was a really fulfilling experience. I was thrilled to see how funds from the Bupa UK Foundation have made a real difference to the lives and futures of so many. There are similarities between the purpose of Bupa and Gaydio in that the common objective is to help people live their best lives. The Gaydio team could have focused resources on commercially beneficial relationships, but instead some of its best people are working on making the lives of the LGBT+ community better, happier and more rewarding. I left the station feeling proud of the contribution the Bupa UK Foundation is making to support these outcomes."